To me, there is nothing like a combination of the Christmas season and an impending U.S. presidential election to get me thinking about what is important. While I think that there are a majority of Americans who vote along party lines, I also imagine that it is based on some set of key values. So that is what this post will be about: what I value. More importantly, I believe that most of us share the same key values, but differ greatly on how we express those values.
I should start by saying I am conservative. So you are about to get one man's view of key values as seen through conservative colored glasses. Here is my list:
I value liberty
Freedom means a lot of things to a lot of people. What I believe in is liberty. And by liberty I mean the opportunity to pursue what our Declaration of Independence calls our inalienable rights. Our historical independence was a fight for our lives out from under the oppressive hand of tyrannical governmental leaders.
While nobody wants a government that controls every aspect of their life, I could imagine many taking their current political liberty for granted and instead focusing on the need for some new special classification for the entitlement of today. I would imagine that while we might not always agree on new ideas for what is included in those unalienable rights, I would imagine the original list is one we might all agree on.
I value compassion
One could define this as sympathy to alleviate the suffering of others. That is a fairly narrow definition however, so I am not sure that applies well to every situation. Are we all interested in helping people out of the mess they have created? For many of us, yes we are. What about the suffering of people in far away countries? Do we go join them in a war to defend them and alleviate their suffering? Maybe so. And what about potential future suffering? Do we feel compelled to hedge those bets to in order to alleviate future suffering? I think we can all agree that where we see true suffering, we want to imagine we could do something to see it come to an end.
One place some of us might disagree is around an obligation to alleviate suffering. It is one thing, in the Christian sense, to personally make a choice to alleviate the suffering of others. It is another thing altogether tyrannical to demand that others do this. One might go so far as to say that "proxy compassion" (where we feel we are compassionate if we pay a tax that might somehow result in some form of benefit to those in need) is not compassion at all. It is simply the alleviating of personal responsibility through affiliation.
So, said another way, I don't believe in proxy compassion. I believe in granting people the liberty to personally find compassionate opportunity, and do something about it rather than voting for people who claim that paying taxes is a form of facilitating proxy compassion. While that might be true of smaller groups who are transparent and accountable, that will never be true of the Federal Government. A Christian will never be able to claim the Federal Government is performing some kind of Biblical proxy compassion.
I value life
By life, I mean I the contrast of life versus death, not the quality of life. Not that I am opposed to addressing issues around the quality of life. What I mean to say is that the "quality" issue may have more to do with compassion than the more specific "life vs. death" reality.
Having said that, a lot of times, valuing life, for me, can be narrowed down to either "innocent life" or "the life of a loved one." In my opinion, the world is not a tender place filled with tiny flowers and butterflies dancing around the tune of small songbirds. And sometimes people make horrible decisions, to shoot up "gun free zones" and cause the death of loved ones or innocence. In that moment, I could imagine making a decision to end the harmful persons "less-than-innocent" life in order to protect the life of my family. I know that sounds like a horrible reality, and I pray to not be faced with it.
So I acknowledge that the issue is not completely black-and-white, and that we need to make decisions at times, like to end one life in order to protect another. I would have a far worse time make a decision, for example, to end one life in order to facilitate a better quality of life for another (e.g. shooting someone stealing the TV from my home, or having an abortion -- to me, neither of these should be rights and at the moment only the later is).
I value happiness
The right to pursue happiness is something I value. Again, for me this is about liberty and not facilitation. As an American, I truly believe that happiness is something you pursue and not something given. So happiness is misplaced if it requires special entitlements to be enacted. With that one caution, I am a person willing to pursue happiness without dependency. As soon as my joy suddenly requires everyone else agree with me or my particular form of joy requires a government entitlement to be realized, then it is my opinion that something is out of ballance.
Whenever I hear about how a politician is going to grant me something I don't have, or make me great, I think about how I am not interested in that politically progressive agenda. I will be whatever I decide to pursue. And that means I will vote for those who share my values and are willing to get out of the way so i may pursue them.